Contextualizing members’ categories within participatory action research

Christina Higgins

University of Hawaii at Manoa, USA

WS149: CA and Other Conceptions of Context: Borders and Bridges

In this section of the workshop, I present excerpts of naturally occuring interaction as a way to explore how membership categories produced in turn-by-turn sequences of talk may be analyzed from a perspective that integrates the study of interaction with participatory action research (PAR) perspectives. PAR is an approach to research in which researchers collaborate with a community to identify a concern, initiate research, create an action plan, implement that action plan, and adapt the action plan based on the outcome in a cyclical process. The data presented in this workshop come from the early stages of a PAR project on HIV/AIDS education events that was initiated for the purpose of assessing and improving the practices of HIV/AIDS education among non-governmental organizations. To examine the relationship between categorization and PAR, I discuss how concerns are collaboratively identified through a discussion of excerpts of talk recorded at education sessions across a variety of settings in Tanzania. Identifying concerns is a crucial aspect of PAR, but it also raises issues of categorization that are relevant to conversation analysis (CA) practitioners’ concerns with membership categories. Accordingly, the research project I discuss here offers CA practitioners the opportunity to discuss whether and to what degree their work can be 'applied' to assess and improve institutional practices such as HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention efforts.

As one way to approach these issues, I provide extracts of talk that reveal instances of interculturality in the data, as oriented to by the participants in the talk and as identified through ethnographic methods such as interviews with participants. As the data indicate, categorizations of intercultural difference create various problems for the educators and participants alike in achieving their educational goals. Taking these intercultural moments as starting points, I address the concept of 'relevance’ from both CA and PAR perspectives. Specifically, I investigate for whom cultural difference is made relevant, and in what contexts. The context of the research raises challenging questions about the utility of CA/MCA research for applied settings, the relationship between the researcher and the researched, and the overall purpose of qualitative research in institutional settings. As the presenter is a non-native Tanzanian doing research on Tanzanian social practices, the role of the 'non-native' researcher in CA research will also be presented as a discussion topic for workshop participants.

Session: Workshop (part 2)
CA and Other Conceptions of Context: Borders and Bridges
Friday, April 4, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 05